Back-Seat Driver

‘Left-lane loons’ and other Sacramento freeway agitators

Sacramento’s W-X freeway, looking east, is described as a troublesome roadway for driver behavior where freeways merge.
Sacramento’s W-X freeway, looking east, is described as a troublesome roadway for driver behavior where freeways merge. Sacramento Bee file

Where are you most apt to run into overly aggressive drivers on the Sacramento freeway system?

We asked that question last week after the California Highway Patrol announced it plans to tackle aggressive driving in the coming year, possibly with added patrols at key bad-driving hot spots.

Based on your responses, it seems unfriendly driver behavior most typically happens in congested merge areas near interchanges where people squeeze from lane to lane – and there are a lot of those areas around the region.

Several readers say drivers can get especially ugly westbound on the W-X freeway (also known as Highway 50 or Capital City Freeway) approaching the connector ramps onto northbound and southbound Interstate 5.

That is definitely a chaotic scene. I drove it at 2 p.m. on Friday to check it out and it was such a mess, I just bailed. Cars from the 15th Street onramp struggle to break through a wall of stalled traffic headed to the I-5 ramps, while cars in the faster lanes swoop forward, looking for a last-minute cut-in spot.

For what it’s worth, traffic experts say in cases where a freeway lane merges into another, traffic actually flows a bit more smoothly if cars in the disappearing lane drive all the way to the end of that lane before merging.

A couple of readers say that Sacramento drivers, in general, are just poorly behaved compared to drivers in, wait for it ... Los Angeles! Stephanie Taylor says the constantly heavy traffic in L.A. essentially forces drivers there to be more courteous.

Reader Ronald Adams took me to task for saying aggressive drivers are selfish. Slow drivers, especially in the fast lane, are guilty of bad behavior as well, he said, by getting in the way of faster drivers and making them mad. “It’s one of the reasons there is such erratic driving.”

Reader Morris Erickson put it colorfully: People who drive 64 mph in the fast lane are “left-lane loons,” he said, “self-appointed visionaries who have decided what’s good for everyone.”

Other local freeway section nominees for aggressive driving:

▪  The I-5 section southbound from the airport into downtown is famous for tailgaters on the tightly packed two-lane section near the airport, and whip-like lane changers on the wide, yet clogged section in Natomas entering downtown over the river.

▪ Drivers complained about the westbound split on I-80 at the Capital City Freeway, just after Madison Avenue, where last-minute line cutting feels dangerous. “No turn signals, of course,” Nancy Zepf adds.

▪ Reader Jerry Marr of Davis nominates I-80 between Davis and Vacaville as an aggressive driving hot spot. Once again, it’s a spot where the freeway lanes decrease, creating a bottleneck.

Arena umbrellas?

Are umbrellas banned from the Kings’ downtown arena or not? Two weeks ago, right before the Kanye West concert, the team announced on the Golden 1 Center Facebook page that umbrellas are banned.

A number of fans called and emailed, complaining about the policy. Now, a Kings spokesman says umbrellas are allowed at Kings games. But some concert or other event promoters may ban them from their events in the arena. Ticket buyers are supposed to be notified if that is the case for a particular concert.

The Kings say they’d really prefer that people bring smaller, retractable umbrellas that they can stow under their seats. As of Friday evening, the Golden 1 Center website still listed umbrellas on the prohibited items list, but they added an asterisk: “Small retractables are currently permitted at Kings games.”

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